A wall of video monitors stood in front of Marshall Ledbury, he leaned forward in his chair as he surveyed them all. “Standby. We are live in thirty-five seconds. Des, roll credits,” he said into his headset. He watched on a monitor as the credits ran through, making sure that all five of the cameras were in place. “Okay Kate, lights up and cue the applause.”
The house-band started to play a clean yet furious riff with intricate beats while a small crane swung a camera over the audience as they clapped and cheered, standing. Hundreds of eyes watched the intermittent glow of the applause sign, converting it to enthusiasm en masse.
“Camera one, standby,” he said, watching as a woman in her early thirties stood at the front of the studio stage. Her wavy brown hair curled under her chin, settling gently on her shoulders and neck. She quickly checked that her microphone was still clipped on to the top of her elegant white maxi-dress. She scanned the audience in front of her, her arms resting on her hips with her face projecting an impressed smile which mirrored a similar expression worn at this point on at least fifty-percent of the previous shows. She nodded her head slightly as the applause died down. The glowing sign had ceased.
Turning her attention to the camera in front of her, the woman began her routine upon Marshall’s cue. “Good evening, and welcome to Saturday Night with me, Ashley Chapman. The mayoral elections this week saw Jason Paddock take control of the capitol, after promising to cut rising fuel costs, bring in harsher punishments for criminals and reduce hospital waiting lists. He’s solved all three by personally overseeing development of the new Prius Soylent. It offers an impressive 98 MPG. That’s miles per grandmother.”
Applause and laughter. Ashley smiled back at the audience, clasping her hands together.
(…continued from part one)
A stiff breeze ran through the room, beginning its journey from the far wall. It carried the light odour of raspberry and fermentation with it as it travelled. It picked up the sounds too: the clinking of glasses, the laughter, the hum of the ventilation shaft. They all combined to form the atmosphere of the dining room. An atmosphere which held in the warm radiance of light, bouncing it around until its energy was absorbed by the life within.
“…and when will these sweep the land?” Hanin asked, tucking her leg under itself as she turned her body to face him.
“Thirty years, tops. Then every Corean will have their own hoverboard. If I were a betting man-”
“You gamble all the time,” she said.
“Okay, fair point. If I was a betting man with more than a hundred credits to my name, I’d be investing in them myself.”
Simone placed her glass of homebrew back onto the table which stood in the middle of the room, surrounded on three sides by lengthy settees, all uniform creme colour with splashes of floral patterns on cushions which sporadically filled the gaps between people.
“I’m clearly wasting my time then Canti,” Simone said, leaning back into the chair. “I’ll get working on the anti-gravity plank of wood right away. Well, as soon I sober up.”
Ryan flicked his wrist in front of his eyes. He glanced quickly at the display of his watch, which was in countdown mode. Seventeen-minutes and forty-two seconds, it read. Just as swiftly, he pulled his arm away and continued running. The people around him blurred as he propelled himself through the crowds of the high street. Hundreds of people just living their lives as if nothing was wrong. They were nothing but obstacles to him now. The burn in his legs rose to the upper-thighs, every step felt like emptying a kettle of boiling water over them. Ryan didn’t slow down. He couldn’t. He had gained nearly a second on his previous time. Maybe it was enough.
It was all like a well-choreographed dance to him now. Man in grey suit with blue pinstripes exits the newsagents, rushes straight into the street, his briefcase swinging in front of him. Ryan propelled himself to the left of the pavement, weaving between two old ladies pushing their shopping trolleys and dodging the suited man. He crossed the road which was jammed with traffic. There was a lorry parked farther up the street outside the hardware store. The tail-lift had malfunctioned, grounding the lorry, forcing the busy rush hour congestion to use a single lane between them. He slipped between a white van and a red estate car whose occupant was pushing his horn repeatedly, as if one more blast of sound was going to make the problem go away, to make it all disappear, to get him home to his wife.